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General News of Monday, 13 May 2019

Source: www.ghanaweb.com

Special Prosecutor has been slow but can't be blamed - Dr Asante

The idea of an independent prosecutorial body to deal with cases of corruption among public officers caused a thrill among several Ghanaians.

But this excitement has, however, been short-lived as the Office of the Special Prosecutor, established in January 2018 and headed by Martin Amidu has not lived up to the expectations of Ghanaians.

On the back of this, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Dr. Kojo Asante has said that the Office of the Special Prosecutor has not operated fast enough to deal with issues for which it was established.

Dr. Asante attributed the cause of such delays in investigations and prosecutions by the Special Prosecutor to some obvious constraints.

He made these comments at a Corruption Watch round table discussion organized by the Centre for Democratic Development today, May 13, 2019.

Presenting a report on behalf of the Centre and other anti-corruption CSOs, Dr. Asante analyzed some possible dimensions that explain why the Office of the Special Prosecutor has been slow in meeting the expectations of Ghanaians.

Key of which include the lack of coordination and collaboration with other institutions, which he believes is an urgent need of the special prosecutor in dealing with corruption cases involving political leaders.

“Going forward there are a lot of things that we should avoid, I talked about the collaboration thing. If we don’t address those things we’re going to dissipate resources and create confusion," he advised.

Dr. Asante explained in an interview with GhanaWeb that the delay in the Special Prosecutor’s investigations has not been deliberate because the office has been under-resourced in terms of personnel and logistics.

“If you had three investigators at the beginning, then you have the special prosecutor alone and the deputy. There are trying to do administrative work, they’re trying to do board meetings...you want them to go to court…That’s a lot to handle for just a small team. So for me, I think the slowness can be explained now since we know what has happened,” he added.

He further mentioned that per the estimation of the CDD, government in establishing the Office of the Special Prosecutor underestimated the powers and powers and components of the special prosecutor.

“...for the fact that the Office of the Special Prosecutor was in this small place for that long and not realizing that even if you brought new people to work for the Office of the Special Prosecutor, they wouldn’t have a space to work, suggested that we didn’t really know the all of the components...” Dr. Asante stated.

It has been a year since the establishment of the office of the special prosecutor and many reports indicate that the office has only been able to file one case in court with about 25 others pending investigations.

Not only has this rather slow development incurred the worry of some concerned Ghanaians but has also attracted criticisms. While some have tagged Martin Amidu, the special Prosecutor as slow and redundant in getting the job done, other political figures have blamed government for deliberately under-resourcing the office for political gains.



List of 26 cases at Office of Special Prosecutor not authentic

Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Special Prosecutor Board, Linda Ofori Kwafo at the same function questioned the authenticity of a list of 25 cases which surfaced in media reportage, purported to be cases of interest that the special prosecutor has started investigating.

According to the list, former President Mahama President, John Dramani Mahama; New Patriotic Party (NPP) Chair, Freddy Blay; Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, among several other key political figures have been spotted under the radar of the special prosecutor in a total of 25 cases with one currently in court.

But Linda Kwafo says the office of the prosecutor is only obliged to publish cases which it has already investigated and not cases which are yet to be investigated. Thus it is news to her that there is such a list in the public space

“I don’t speak for the Office of the Special Prosecutor...but I just want us to all know that as much as we all want corruption dealt with and people investigated properly and sanctioned when the need arises we should also make sure the office works according to its procedures,” she advised.

“So it’s quite unfortunate a list is out but I’m not sure that is the list that even I got to know from the media.”

She added, “that the special prosecutor is under no obligation to let the public in on the details of cases he is pursuing”.